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AS NATIONAL HIGHWAY 8 LEAVES DELHI, starting a 1,500-kilometre trek south-west towards Jaipur and Ahmedabad, and then on to Mumbai, it skirts the northern foothills of the Aravalli range. Here, the road cuts through the arid plains of southern Haryana, where the city of Gurgaon—more than a million people living in thousands of acres of glass high-rises, gated communities, and unauthorised settlements—has materialised over the past 35 years.
On a hot afternoon last summer, I drifted slowly down the highway toward the fringes of Gurgaon, where the Millennium City, as it’s often called, is still very much under construction. Beyond a toll plaza at Kherki Daula village, about 30 kilometres outside Delhi, the road narrowed, encroached upon by sand. Trucks whipped up dust devils as they trundled past me toward the industrial hub of Manesar. Intersecting the highway, a newly laid four-lane road bordered an empty tract of land. Straddling it was a big blue hoarding, welcoming arrivals to Vatika City—one of scores of suburban developments gradually replacing the farmland on the expanding edges of Gurgaon.
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